The game is most certainly afoot. Not only does this new Sherlock Holmes film have to better the original surprise hit, but it also has to include Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless nemesis Moriarty while simultaneously tying up leftover plot strands and also making room for Noomi Rapace and several even bigger action sequences. Can it be done? Elementary, my dear reader… (That’s quite enough of that –Ed)
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, the plot will not be picked over here, save mentioning the fact that it’s good. Really good. Twisted, cunning, clever, witty and deeply satisfying, this film not only encourages but actually rewards multiple viewings. Anyone who watched the first film and thought that they stood a chance of keeping pace with Holmes this time will find themselves well and truly hoodwinked.
Speaking of Holmes, actor Robert Downey Jr. is once again on fine form, as is Jude Law, with both managing to deliver humour, warmth, respect, brotherly love and even the odd Schwarzenegger moment. Noomi Rapace emerges from the shadow of the Millennium trilogy almost unrecognisable – flowing hair, flawless accent and oozing sex appeal, she’s definitely a talent to watch out for.
Overshadowing all the other assets is, of course, Jared Harris’s utterly wonderful Moriarty. Hitting all the bases – creepy, sinister, gentle, kindly – in every single scene without ever camping up the performance or playing it down ensure that Harris dan near steals the entire show. An impressive feat considering his time onscreen is often shared with Downey Jr. in full maniac mode.
Also stepping up to the plate is director Guy Richie, who seems to have rewatched the first Holmes film and figured out how to outdo absolutely every frame of it. The many action set pieces here blow the original film out of the water – be they set on a train, in a forest or on the streets of London. Whereas last time when Holmes deduced how to defeat his foes was a highlight, this time it’s simply thrown in for fun, almost as a teasing aside while Richie prepares to show his hand. What’s most impressive is how Moriarty and Holmes do battle – always using their wits and their words, never their fists – and the fact that tension oozes out of the screen and will your heart racing just as easily as the forest sequence is a testimony to the creative talents of all involved.
If there is a weakness to the film, it’s that one of the plot points feels unresolved (Rapace pretty much disappears at the climax) and the last film’s ending isn’t expanded upon. Moriarty’s theft of the wireless device is never mentioned here, even though it is – presumably – the item that made the bombings possible.
If you liked the first film, you’ll fall head over heels in love with A Game of Shadows. Bigger in scale, better in execution, craftier in structure and funnier in wit, this sequel is probably one of the most enjoyable films to have been released in 2011.